The desire to discover the unseen and the unknown, coupled with the motivation to expand empire, wealth, and power have compelled humans to reach the unexplored land against hundreds of trials and tribulations. A few men from Spain, also driven by these desires, once dominated the world of exploration.
The history of Spanish exploration goes back to 1469, when Spain was ruled by King Ferdinand V and Queen Isabella I. Christopher Columbus, Vasco Nunez de Balboa, Francisco Pizarro, and Hernando DeSoto, are some of the famous explorers who expanded Spanish trade, and brought in immense wealth to their country. Let's have a look at their adventures.
Famous Explorers and Conquerors from Spain
Christopher Columbus, the renowned explorer was born on August 25, 1451, in Genoa, Italy. He set out on his first expedition on August 3, 1492. King Ferdinand V and Queen Isabella I of Spain provided him three ships for his voyage, which were named as Niña, Pinta, and the Santa Maria. With these three ships and 90 crewmen, Columbus set out on a journey to find a new route to the far east.
On October 7, 1492, Columbus and his crewmen landed on the Bahamian Island of Guanahani, which was renamed as San Salvador by Columbus. They also traveled to Hispaniola, Cuba, and other small islands in search of gold and treasures.
On December 25, 1492, the ship Santa Maria smashed against a rock. Columbus left 39 of the ship's crewmen on Hispaniola island, and reached Spain in the ship Nina on March 15, 1493. He was rewarded with new titles and wealth by the Spanish rulers for his endeavors.
Hernando De Soto
Hernando De Soto of Spain was born in 1500. He was the first to lead a European expedition to America, and discover the Mississippi River. He sailed to America in 1514 with Pedrarias Dávila, the governor of Panama. He proved himself to be a clever and excellent leader in the conquest of Central America.
In 1530, De Soto led an expedition to the coast of Yucatán Peninsula in search of a passageway between the Atlantic and the Pacific ocean, but could not succeed. He joined Francisco Pizarro in an expedition to Peru, and played an important role in its conquest.
In 1536, Hernando De Soto returned to Spain, and he was made the governor of Peru. In 1539, he reached Florida with more than 600 soldiers, explorers, and priests. They explored the whole region looking for gold, silver, and valuable treasures, and discovered the Mississippi river. He tried to find a passage to China for expanding Spanish trade. Fernando De Soto died in 1542, and was buried on the bank of the Mississippi river.
Hernando Cortes, the famous conqueror and explorer was born in 1485 in Medellín province of Spain. He was a student of law in the University of Salamanca, but could not complete his education. Hernando Cortes went to the Spanish colonies of North and South America in the hope of finding better prospects and acquire wealth. He took part in the conquest of Hispaniola and Cuba, and was rewarded with a large estate of land for his endeavors.
In 1519, he set out on an expedition to Mexico with 500 men. In his voyage towards the Aztec empire, he subjugated many tribes. When Cortes reached the capital of the empire, the Aztecs mistook him for their light-skinned god Quetzalcoatl, and greeted him instead of resisting his entry to the empire.
Montezuma, the Aztec leader wanted to oppose Cortes, but could not gather a strong force against him, as Aztecs believed Cortes to be the god Quetzalcoatl. On November 18, 1519, Cortes reached Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec empire, and captured Montezuma.
In July 1520, the Aztecs attacked Cortes and his men in Noche Triste and defeated him. But Cortes fought back, and conquered Tenochtitlan on August 13, 1521. He was awarded the title of Marquis of the Oaxaca Valley by the Spanish government.
Vasco Nuñez de Balboa
Vasco Nuñez de Balboa was a renowned explorer, conqueror, and the governor of Spain. He was the man behind establishing the Darién colony in Panama, one of the oldest European colonies in America. In 1501, he went to the Hispaniola island along with Rodrigo de Bastidas, and Juan de la Cosa, and settled as a planter.
Vasco Nuñez de Balboa set out towards San Sebastian in a ship commanded by Martín Fernández de Enciso. In San Sebastian, they found that the settlement was completely destroyed and many inhabitants were murdered by the local tribes.
Balboa proposed the dwellers of the colony to move towards Darien, which is towards the west of Gulf of Uraba. The people of San Sebastian moved to the Darien region, where they had to fight a battle against 500 local warriors. The Spanish emerged victorious in that hard-fought battle. In September 1510, Balboa established the Santa Maria colony in Darien, which was the first permanent settlement on American mainland.
On September 1, 1513, Balboa along with 190 Spaniards set out on a journey across the Isthmus of Panama to discover a sea that believed contain gold. During this journey, he subdued many local tribes and gathered substantial treasures. Vasco Nuñez de Balboa was the first European to discover the Pacific ocean. Even today, this famous explorer is greatly revered in Panama, and many places, parks, and avenues are named after him. Balboa, the currency of Panama is also named after this great conqueror.
On November 16, 1532, Pizarro along with his brother and 180 men arrived at Cajamarca, and defeated and captured Atahuallpa, the King of the Inca empire (ancient empire of South America covering parts of present day Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina, and Chile). He conquered the Inca empire and founded the city of Lima on January 18, 1535.
No doubt, the main reasons behind all these Spanish explorations were the expansion of empire and market, and the accumulation of gold and treasures for Spain. But it cannot be denied that they were also inspired by a desire to explore the unseen world, and they contributed immensely towards the advancement of the entire world by discovering many new lands and trade routes.